A “HEALTHY” actor died just four days after being diagnosed with bowel cancer.
Nick Baldev had been suffering from symptoms for several months, but he didn’t clock a connection to the disease.
Doctors say his condition likely went undetected for five years.
Nick’s family now want to use his story to raise awareness of the potential red flags of bowel cancer, which kills almost 17,000 people in the UK every year.
His sister Sheena said: “We don’t want Nick to have died in vain.
“He was special, and for us it’s so sad that somebody who loved life so much, and who was so young, has gone so quickly.
“We want to raise awareness and for people to be aware of the symptoms.”
Nick had lived with ulcerative colitis – an inflammatory bowel disease – for most of his adult life, but he managed his symptoms well and reached remission in 2011.
When he started experiencing a flare-up in early 2023 (the symptoms of which usually include diarrhoea, stomach pain and sore joints), the salesman and budding actor assumed it was linked.
He continued to play golf, see friends and visit his favourite bars, but the 40-year-old sought advice from a GP and was prescribed steroids.
These did little to improve his condition, however, so he pushed for a private referral in March.
On June 19, he underwent a colonoscopy, which identified a large tumour in his bowel, and was sent for an urgent MRI and CT scan.
“They had found abnormal cells, which they seemed to think were cancerous, but they couldn’t say for sure as they needed confirmation from the biopsy results,” Sheena, 38, said.
“I went to see him the following day because he was crying, saying, ‘They think it’s cancer’, so I just dropped everything and went over to the house.
“He was struggling to eat or drink anything; I made him a slice of toast and he could barely eat half of it, but he was still talking and up and down.”
On June 21, doctors confirmed Nick had bowel cancer but could not determine “the extent” of the disease until they received the results of the biopsy.
Three days later, his health “deteriorated”; his heart rate exceeded 160bpm and medics decided emergency surgery was required.
Cameras were inserted into Nick’s stomach, revealing he had a 4in (10cm) tumour in his bowel and the cancer had spread.
Doctors then broke the news that he had only “a day or two” to live.
Nick’s dad Rajan said it was “beyond devastating and incomprehensible” and it felt as though the family’s “world had collapsed”.
Sheena, a forensic investigator, added: “It was just so surreal, I couldn’t believe it was happening.
“I felt like I was in this nightmare, but then it was really emotional as well.
“Nick just said, ‘I’m going to see my friends tomorrow, but on Monday, maybe Tuesday, I’ll see how I am’, so even we thought he had some days left.
“But on that Sunday (June 25), he called me just after 8am and said, ‘Look, just come as soon as you can because it’s going to be today, I’m going to go today’.”
Relatives and around 100 close friends visited him in hospital to say their final goodbyes.
Sheena, from Twickenham, south west London, said: “He was dying, he was tired, he was in pain, but when we had a toast – he loved whisky, it was his favourite drink – he just said ‘thank you’ to everyone.
“He was just so humbled that everyone came at the last minute to see him.”
In his final hours, the Arsenal fan, who at 6ft 3in tall was affectionately known as ‘Big Nick’, found the strength to sing his favourite song – Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones.
He died at about 7.30pm on June 25 and was laid to rest on July 10.
Heaven may not have gained an angel, but it has most certainly gained a rock star.
A film called Rise of the Footsoldier: Vengeance, which he appears as an extra in, has been dedicated to him.
Reflecting on the “surreal” journey, Sheena said: “You never expect the worst is going to happen to somebody that you love.
“He was just so brave. We can’t imagine us ever being in that situation.
“I don’t know anyone who loved people as much as he did – he was more than just a people person, he actually loved people and loved to be around people.
“He was such a presence. I always say, ‘Heaven may not have gained an angel, but it has most certainly gained a rock star’.”
She added: “He was funny, witty, artistic, outgoing, intelligent and immaculately dressed.
“He would always give everybody his time and he always lived for the present.
“I think that’s what makes him so special and really unique because we don’t do that enough, as human beings.
“Everyone loved him, there was never a bad word spoken about him, and everyone just honestly wholeheartedly loved him.”
Nick’s family are raising money for the charity Occtopus Oxford Colon Cancer Trust.
They are also urging people to get tested if they notice any bowel cancer symptoms – especially those with existing bowel conditions.
Sheena said: “For people who suffer from colitis, if you’ve been in remission and you’re having flare-ups, it’s important to get those tests.
“There’s no real way of knowing until you have those more extensive tests because the symptoms can be identical.”
Neil Mortensen, Occtopus chair and colorectal surgery professor, said: “As Nick’s tragic story shows, colitis and bowel cancer share many common symptoms.
“These symptoms include long-lasting and unexplained changes to your bowel habit, blood in your stool and repeated stomach pain.
“You can have mild colitis without realising it, but more importantly, if you have had a diagnosis of colitis then you must have regular check ups by a specialist, which might include a colonoscopy.
“This is really important even if the colitis seems to be behaving itself.
“If you are a colitis sufferer and have what you consider to be a flare up, it is imperative you speak with your GP to ensure that all appropriate tests are carried out.”
Symptoms of bowel cancer
It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer.
Spotting any changes to your ‘normal’ and going to your doctor is vital.
The most common symptoms include:
- Bleeding from the back passage, or blood in your poo
- A change in your normal toilet habits – e.g. going more frequently
- Pain or a lump in your tummy
- Extreme tiredness
- Losing weight
These signs are similar to those of other bowel conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which include diarrhoea, stomach pain, nausea, exhaustion, weight loss, bloating and constipation.
The NHS bowel cancer screening programme has DIY tests available to all those aged 60 to 74 years old.
Thanks to The Sun’s No Time 2 Lose campaign, which launched in April 2018, those tests are now being rolled out to people from their 50th birthday.